Australian rock band Crowded House’s music has stretched across oceans. Originating in 1985, the band had a string of hits in the U.S. throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, with the name Crowded House taking on a literal meaning. Below, we explore the meaning behind the band name.
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Meaning Behind the Band Name
Prior to Crowded House fame, founding members Neil Finn and Paul Hester were part of the New Zealand Rock band Split Enz, which formed in Aukland before traversing through Australia and setting up base in England. They were together for 12 years, disbanding in 1984, prompting Finn and Hester to form a new band while on Split Enz’s final tour. That’s when they were approached by bass guitarist Nick Seymour about auditioning for the band. The group was originally called The Mullanes and was inspired by Finn’s mother’s maiden name, which became his middle name, Mullane. The band formed in Melbourne, Australia, in 1985 with Finn, Hester, Seymour, and guitarist Craig Hooper.
“I was lying in bed agonizing over what to call the band when we toured and my mother came in and said, ‘Call it the Mullanes, Neil.’ And we did,'” Neil is quoted as saying in author Chris Bourke’s book Crowded House: Something So Strong.
After relocating to Los Angeles (sans Hooper), the band changed their name to Crowded House at the request of their record label, Capitol Records. The title is a reference to the tight quarters they were living in a two-bedroom house in Hollywood while recording their self-titled debut album. Crowded House found success early on with their fourth single, “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” The song was written solely by Finn and became their biggest international hit, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 11 on the Mainstream Rock chart. It was also a hit in their native Australia where it peaked at No. 8. All seven of the band’s studio albums have reached either the No. 1 or No. 2 position on the Australian ARIA Chart. “Something So Strong,” “Chocolate Cake” and “It’s Only Natural” are among the band’s other well-known hits.
“I‘ve learned over the years to trust that process because it does seem to spark transformative moments for people that do get my music and people that often connect with lines that weren’t consciously created,” Finn shared about his songwriting process in a 2021 interview with Forbes. “They came out in the original form with the melodic idea from my subconscious, so I trust that.
“It’s a vulnerable place…I trust the process and I trust a melody. You can’t explain why a melody hits you in a certain way. You can’t explain the feelings it gives you. And similarly to me, you can’t explain why certain words slammed together feel good to say. And pop music is littered with amazing songs that you just enjoy singing, even if you don’t want to intellectualize the process actually. It’s a liberation not to have to for me anyway.”
The group disbanded in 1996 and reunited in 2006–one year after Hester committed suicide. In 2016, Crowded House was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. The hit-making band has had multiple reunions over the years, releasing their most recent album in 2021, Dreamers Are Waiting, which reached No. 2 on the Australian Albums chart.
Photo by Suzie Gibbons/Redferns